DAVIE, Fla. – The relaxed, laid-back demeanor Chris Culliver had at his locker Wednesday was that of a player who knows something the rest of us do not know.
There is a quiet confidence about Culliver, who was allowed to practice for the first time after recovering from major knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL in his knee. Culliver has three weeks to be activated from the physically unable to perform list and believes he can boost Miami’s struggling and ailing secondary.
It’s natural to have questions about Culliver. Can he make an immediate impact after a major knee injury? When will he be ready to play in games? Can Culliver contribute as a starter or in the nickel role when he’s back on the field?
“It’s going to feel good,” Culliver said of his return. “I know I’m super, over-the-top ready. I’m ready now, but it’s just repetition and getting my helmet and keep doing what I’m doing.”
It’s been a roller-coaster journey for Culliver to get back on the practice field with the Dolphins. He signed a $32 million contract to play for the Washington Redskins in 2015. But while Culliver was rehabbing two torn knee ligaments, an interesting chain of events led to his release in May.
The Carolina Panthers surprisingly rescinded the franchise tag from Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman, which made him an unrestricted free agent. The Redskins pounced on Norman and signed him to a $75 million contract. Washington released Culliver soon after, and he eventually landed in Miami where he continued his rehab.
Culliver, 28, has 26 career starts and 52 games under his belt. He’s one of the team’s most experienced corners and should be able to help a struggling secondary that already has benched one player (Byron Maxwell) and lost one for the season (Reshad Jones) due to injury.
Without being able to practice, Culliver was able to study and get mental reps in the playbook and says he knows it well. It remains to be seen how soon Culliver can help the Dolphins in games, but practicing for the first time on Wednesday was a major step in the right direction.
“I definitely feel good and confident catching the ball, running, cutting, jumping,” Culliver said. “Pretty much every aspect like that, but it’s a different feel when you have the helmet on and pads.”
Here are some other Dolphins notes:
Miami running back Jay Ajayi was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after his career-high 204 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ajayi averaged 8.2 yards per carry and finished the game with a 62-yard touchdown run. He became the first NFL player to rush for 200 yards or more this season.
Dolphins tight ends Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims did not practice Wednesday. Both are sidelined with concussions. Third-string tight end MarQueis Gray is projected to start. Backup defensive end Jason Jones also was present but did not have a helmet.
Miami has a lot to overcome against Buffalo. The Bills have had their number, beating the Dolphins five out of the past six meetings.